I was intrigued, and was hooked as soon as I started reading. To tell the truth, I’m new to Murakami’s work and new to Japanese literature in general. Haruki Murakami has a clear, lucid, sharp style of writing and definitely knows how to turn story plots into page turners which get completed before you know it, and leave you with thoughts long after you have finished. The story kicks off with thirty-seven-year-old Toru Watanabe hearing his old girlfriend’s favourite Beatles song and finding himself drawn inexorably back to the summer of eighteen years ago – the summer of his first year at university, the year he learnt what it means to love someone who is irrevocably broken. It is this year that he begins to have feelings for Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki, who left a hole in both Toru and Naoko’s lives when he committed suicide two years previously. Through the pages of this book, Haruki Murakami has explored loss, pain, sexuality, growing up, love and related topics and addresses some difficult coming-of-age questions. The theme is overwhelmingly elegiac, and raises a few disturbing questions regarding death / suicides and the (spiritually empty) materialism filled life of today. He conveys the idea that death is not really the end of life, but an intrinsic part of it, and that life and death are not really opposites in that sense, but two sides of the same coin. The characters have been handled with great sensitivity and have been developed well, and they sort of grow on you as the novel progresses. There is quite a bit of sexuality in this novel, as demanded by the story line. Norwegian Wood also gives the reader a peek into Japanese culture. In Murakami’s own words, this novel is one of his few “realistic” works, with “realistic” characters and that is probably why it is so popular.
if you like pacy, action-packed books, this one probably isn’t for you. The plot meanders along lazily, and though it’s a story full of heightened emotions, it’s also the story of an every man living a brightly-peopled but ordinary life. But if you enjoy richly layered stories about loss of innocence and the complexity of human relationships, this is an absolute must-read
“Nobody likes being alone that much. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, that’s all. It just leads to disappointment. ”
5 out of 5 stars